The Social Security Program defines a qualifying disability as “any condition that is severe enough to prevent you from working for 12 months or more.” People who apply for disability will be measured against that criteria, so if you’re working full-time or part-time while applying for benefits, your claim could be affected.
On the other hand, it can take a long time to be approved for benefits. Many people have to earn some income while they wait. In those situations, the Social Security Program does set guidelines for working.
You can generally work part-time while you apply for Social Security benefits so long as your earnings don’t exceed a certain limit. Social Security sets this limit every year. It’s called the “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) limit.
Substantial Gainful Activity
The 2020 SGA limit is $1,260 per month. There are exceptions for claimants with very specific medical conditions. A capable disability lawyer can help you navigate exceptions.
So, as long as you earn less than the sga amount of $1,260 per month while applying for disability benefits, you’re in the clear… right? Wrong!
Social Security looks at your complete work history, not just how much you make. They’ll also evaluate how many hours you work each week and what you do during those hours. Let’s look at one example.
Examples for determining if you can work part time on disability benefits
- Let’s assume you only work one week a month at minimum wage so you’re under the SGA limit, but during that week, you work over 30 hours. When Social Security is reviewing your application, they may wonder why you can work that much in a week and still consider yourself disabled.They may question if you’re not working full-time because you can’t find a job or if you’re not working because you’re medically unable to work. That could put your claim at risk. Social Security is designed specifically to pay for those people who are medically unable to work.
- What about if you were only working part-time before you applied for benefits? If you keep working part-time and are under the SGA limit, you could still have problems with your claim. It’s very important to work with a capable disability lawyer to avoid situations like this. A disability lawyer can also help educate you about your work history. Then, you can make good decisions about whether or not to move forward with your claim.</;i>
Our job as your disability attorney is to help present the best possible evidence and argument for approving your claim. In many cases, we advise our clients to avoid working while applying for SSDI or Supplemental Income benefits. But, in some cases, we advise that part-time work below the SGA limit is ok. It just depends on the particulars of your claim and your work history.